China – 2700 BC – For the ancient Chinese there was little distinction between healing treatments for the mind and the body. Substances that nourished and promoted healing for the mind were also used for treating the body. The Chinese considered perfumes as medicine. The ancient herbal traditions practiced today, including acupuncture, began with the publication of The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine by Huang Ti. This ancient text primarily deals with the causes and treatment of disease.
Ayurveda East India – 2000 BC – Terra cotta distillation devices and perfume containers were found in the ancient Indus Valley (what is now primarily located in the countries of India and Pakistan) dating back to 3000 BC. The use of plant aromatics in the Indian culture was vast. Aromatic plants and oils were used in every aspect of their lives, including beauty treatments, perfumery, medicinal practices, cleansing and ritual bathing, and religious ceremonies.
In the ancient Indian tantric practices there were elaborate rituals of anointing the body with oils to seduce and arouse the passions. The Vedas, the most ancient sacred texts known, contained formulas for aromatics. The Rig Veda contained instructions for the uses of over 700 plants, including spikenard, myrrh, sandalwood, ginger, cinnamon, and coriander. The human was seen as part of nature and the preparation of medicinal plants was considered a sacred practice. Ayurvedic medicine is one of the oldest forms of medicine practiced continuously since ancient times.
The Bible – Considered as, or more valuable than gold, plant aromatics were rare and highly prized in the ancient world. The Bible makes numerous references to the use of aromatic oils in both the New and Old Testaments. The ancient Hebrews valued plant aromatics for medicinal, perfume, and sacred religious practices. In the Bible Moses received an anointing oil formula for consecrating men into the priesthood which was practiced for generations. The formula included myrrh, cinnamon, frankincense, and olive oil. Mary Magdalene anointed her Master Jesus’ feet with the rare and expensive Spikenard oil. The Phoenician merchants introduced aromatics from the Orient to the West, and helped establish large trading routes for plant aromatics.
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